COVID-19 Relief Funds and the Importance of Accountability

Since the time COVID-19 was officially announced to have made its way into Nigeria, quite a lot of funds have been raised to combat this virus. Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, first announced his intention to support Africa’s fight against COVID-19 by donating essential medical supplies, and pretty quickly, the spotlight was on Nigeria’s own billionaires. Nigerians wanted to know what the country’s top business elites were doing to support their country.

In this vein, the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 was announced as the umbrella body under which industrialists and corporate organizations would donate funds to support efforts in combating the contagious virus. According to Nairametrics, within two weeks, the donations grossed N15.325 billion, thanks to the magnanimity of almost 40 donors comprising individuals and corporate bodies.

It is only right that with all of these funds coming in, there are measures put in place to track the spending to ensure corrupt and criminal actors are unable to leverage this global pandemic for their selfish interests. We have seen a lot of situations where the bad eggs included in handling funds like these are all too eager to misappropriate them; an example is the 2014 Ebola Outbreak when the International Red Cross estimated over $6 million earmarked for assistance was lost to corruption.

For Nigeria to properly deal with this threat, it is expedient that the judiciary is strengthened to uphold the rule of law, end impunity for corrupt officials, expose the names and reveal the magnitude of looting done by the kleptomaniacs, properly investigate and prosecute all officials involved in embezzlement, and generally remain transparent in the handling of the funds.

With all of these in place, it would represent and reflect a decisive step to root out the corruption that threatens to undermine the country’s response to the coronavirus while improving the trust of the citizens in the Government and other Non-governmental organisations involved.

 

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